How busyness leads to bad decisions

There are two types of work in the world: busywork and real work.

Busywork is all the in-between things that come with your job, like emails, meetings, planning, meetings and emails, and real work is the work you’re actually supposed to do, like that big project that you need to deliver to your boss on Friday.

Here’s the problem with busywork: While it might offer a short-term feeling of satisfaction, fulfilment and achievement (a feeling we all strive for), in the long run, it takes our precious time away from what really matters. 

You’re not alone.

A study published in the Independent newspaper in the U.K. found that 22 percent of workers struggle with the overtime they have to put in at the office and that 46 percent wish they could spend less time ticking off mundane life admin tasks and chores.

Life is busier now than it ever has been, and continually trying to keep up with the hustle is tiresome, wearisome and leaves you looking for an escape. 

And it’s in that desperate search that bad decisions are made. 

Unproductive ‘tunnelling’

Overwork and time

When we’re stressed and struggling to find the time, our attention and cognitive bandwidth narrow as if we’re in a tunnel. This can be good and bad.

The upside, for example, is that it can help us focus on our tasks so that we can push things over the finish line quicker and actually get things done. The downside is that we feel incapable of completing the task, overwhelmed by our amassing to-do list, and consequently, inadequate at our jobs. 

Sendhil Mullainathan, a Professor of Computation and Behavioural Science at Chicago Booth University, suggests in this BBC article that we should think more preciously about the time we have and intentionally prioritise our tasks based on importance, arranging everything as neatly as possible, as if our to-do list was more of an art gallery and less of a cluttered pantry.

By doing this, we begin to feel less overwhelmed, less stressed and more in control of our own time. 

The bad decisions of busyness

Time is everything. When we donate our time to busy work, we might feel productive in the short term, but our long-term productivity will drop, leaving us with an even greater sense of dread. 

This feeling of dread only perpetuates our mental state, too. Work starts seeping into our home life, and we begin dreaming about that unfinished project that’s overdue. That leads to higher stress, more anxiety and even feelings of depression and a lack of self-worth. 

What’s worse is, with these negative feelings swirling around our head, it causes us to turn to unhealthy outlets by way of escapism. All we want to do is stop and feel better. That could include using drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other destructive habits like pornography.

These activities are like busywork – they give us a sense of short-term happiness and fulfilment, but like busywork, they cause us to feel even worse about ourselves in the long run. 

Slow it down and start thinking long term

We’ve just stepped into 2020. It’s a new year, and that means that there’s a unique opportunity for you to start making more conscious decisions about your life that’ll bring you better balance, a happier mindset and healthier life. 

You don’t have to ‘feel’ busy to be productive.

After all, only you are in control of your own time, and only you have control over it. We urge you, then, to slow it down in 2020, and to start thinking about long-term fulfilment, rather than short-term ‘satisfactions’. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, or you’re beginning to see signs that you’re becoming addicted to unhealthy habits in life, contact an expert at Camino Recovery today and find out how we can help.  

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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